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Climbing a Granite Big Wall, Discovering New Species for Science, and Starting a New Conservation Area. Aka, Going Camping.

October 24th, 2013

Tents_CIn seven days I will fly across the Atlantic, over the Sahara, toward Mozambique, and to the Lost Mountain. It has taken three years to get here—i.e. to be about to go there.

Right now I am supposed to tell you I am ready and that I know what I am doing. I’m neither.

Projects that matter take self-trickery to make happen. I never asked myself if it was really possible or a good idea to splice together climbing and science and conservation and Malawi and Mozambique and 14 individuals all trying to achieve a collective goal. I just set about doing it. Now it is happening. Which means now is when the panic of the reality sets in. Put another way, we’ve already climbed the high dive ladder, stood on the edge, and jumped off.  Now—when there is no way to go backwards—is therefore the first time when I am finally allowing myself to look at the giant body of water which I’m heading for at full speed. It’s just the way I like to do it.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 9.59.44 AMI’ve spent the majority of my life in and out of major expeditions. I was that kid who had her dolls and stuffed animals organized for imaginary camp with peanut rations and toilet paper sleeping bags. It stands to reason that I am now the adult who has the following decisions to make:

  • What percentage of the poisonous snakes which we will be around have fangs that are over ½ an inch long and thus make a case for the thicker high-top leather hiking boots versus low-tops?
  • Will deet from 2004 still work, and work well enough against malaria-carrying mosquitos? Chance it or change it?
  • Will 33 porters be obscene or accurate? And what size T-shirts do these porters wear/should we bring for gifts?
  • Is EtOH alcohol available for our scientists’ specimen vials in Blantyre, Malawi, or should they tuck it in their luggage here in the U.S. and act none the wiser?
  • If the rainy season starts early will it make any difference if I bring one rain jacket or two?

My nine-year-old niece Miranda called me yesterday evening to talk about camping. She was just back from a family trip in Northern Minnesota

“How was it?” I asked her.

“Camping is cool,” she said. I laughed and agreed.

We talked about her favorite part (waterfalls) the scariest thing (the sound the rain made on the tent) and yuckiest thing (sleeping next to her brother). Once we covered the highlights I asked her if she would do it again. “Well, yeah” she said. I think she would have said “Duh, yeah” had her mother not been listening.

“You know, Miranda,” I said, “I sort of camp for a living.”

She giggled. Usually she tells me I am silly for pretty much everything I say. This time she said “You’re lucky, Auntie Majka.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 10.09.38 AMAfter Miranda and I hung up I went upstairs and looked at the pile of climbing gear with pieces for every possible situation known and unknown, stacks of maps and research and logistics papers, rain coats and rain pants, bug nets, gaiters, sat phones, energy bars and more. This is the highest high dive off of which I’ve ever jumped. But at a certain level, it’s also camping—something I have been doing my whole life. And if camping is cool to Miranda, it’s also cool to me. After all, the thing I’m also most worried about is too much rain on the outside of the tent.

By Majka Burhardt, Lost Mountain Project director and Osprey Athlete

#LostMountain begins October 27th; Follow along at thelostmountainfilm.com

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